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What is Notebooking and How Can You Use It to Increase Engagement in Your Homeschool?

Notebooking Homeschool
By Mindy Scirri, Ph.D.

When you begin homeschooling, one of the things you will notice is that there is literally a whole new language to learn. One of the terms you will likely need to look up in your Homeschool Dictionary is “notebooking.” Before reading an official definition, you may imagine that it has something to do with binders or spiral notebooks or folders, but you have yet to discover the benefits of notebooking and how notebooking can become a valuable instructional tool in your homeschool. Find out here!

What is Notebooking?

Notebooking Structures Benefits of Notebooking
Tips for Notebooking  

Notebooking Resources

*This post contains affiliate links. Things you buy through our links may earn us a commission. Although many of the resources listed here are free, those marked with a $ have a cost or require a fee/subscription in order to access the full range of materials.


What is Notebooking?

Notebooking can best be described as educational scrapbooking and is similar to lapbooking (a method of creating and organizing mini-books on a certain topic) but with some key differences. If you are one of those creative types, you may have dabbled in scrapbooking to memorialize a wedding or a trip or some other family event. Maybe you are a dedicated scrapbooker who captures tidbits and images from daily life in the pages of beautifully designed artwork. If you have scrapbooked at all, you know the pleasure of creating and the satisfaction of leafing through the eye-catching scrapbooks you have made. Educational scrapbooking captures some of those same emotions while learning.


Just as there are many ways a scrapbook page can be designed, there are a variety of ways to notebook. Here are some of the options:

  • Simple versus Complex Content: As a homeschool parent, you can decide how much detail should be part of each notebook. Do you want your child to try to capture as much information about a topic as possible, or are you happy if your child captures the gist? Do you want your child to include summaries or stories or other text with the images or photos? Do you want to include personal reflection on the topics like in a journal? Are simple pencil drawings or coloring pages acceptable, or do you envision something fancier with intricate designs, paper cutouts, and borders? How much time and effort do you want your child to put into the creation of these notebooks?
  • Print versus Computerized: Crafty families will likely choose physical notebooking that requires cutting and pasting, drawing and coloring, stickering and decorating. More techie families (and perhaps those who travel) will prefer making digital notebooks. Offering your child certain software, like Kidspiration, can enhance your child’s digital notebooking experience.
  • Type of Materials: If you choose to make physical notebooks, you also have a lot of options regarding materials. Some families simply use spiral notebooks or three-ring binders with pages three-hole punched inside. Others buy three-ring binders with cover windows to slide in creative cover pages and then insert internal pages into sheet protectors. Still others create fancy covers and have the notebooks bound into books.

Of course, the notebooking decisions you make as a family also affect cost. Remember to explore some of the resources below to help you meet your budget!


Notebooking Structures

Notebooks can be used in a variety of ways that each require different structures. Below are some examples:

  • Notebooking by Stage or Grade Level: If your homeschool is more traditional, you may find that you want to capture topics across content areas throughout a given school year. For example, your preschooler may draw or paste pictures of objects beginning with each letter and create visuals that show the concept of the numbers 1-10. Your child in middle school may be able to choose which topics of interest across subjects to include in a grade-level notebook.
  • Notebooking by Subject Area: You may choose to have your child create a notebook for each subject area or only for certain subject areas. Here are a few ideas for subject area notebooks you may want to consider:
    • ELA: Make the notebook a collection of pages about books that were read, illustrated stories written by your child, and summaries of strategies or grammar rules or other tidbits of learning. Consider including pages for vocabulary/spelling words with illustrated definitions, photos or collages, or collections of stickers and other scrapbooking materials that deepen understanding of the word meanings.
    • Geography: Structure the notebook with divisions for individual countries, regions, or continents and include maps, photos of geography-driven crafts, information about each area, and (if you are lucky enough to be a traveling homeschooler) memorabilia from your visits.
    • History: Organize pages like a timeline with years, decades, or centuries on different pages, decorated with drawings or photos of events, foods, fashions, etc. of the time. You can also include photos from museums, short written summaries, or quotes from each time period.
    • Math: Illustrate different types of word problems with step-by-step solutions, including graphs and number lines and math strategies. Capture Pi Day celebrations or the biographies of famous mathematicians.
    • Science: Create an exciting collection of evidence from science labs (e.g., drawings of what is seen on slides or results of mixing certain substances). Incorporate observation notes from walks in the woods, research on science topics, concept maps of vocabulary, and flow charts of scientific processes.
  • Notebooking by Unit Studies: Maybe you don’t want to keep extended notebooks for an entire grade or stage of learning but would rather capture particular topics periodically throughout your homeschool year. Notebooking is a wonderful companion to the Unit Studies Homeschooling Method, even if you are only doing it part time. Remember to check out our Unit Studies Resources page and our free Explore pages to find a plethora of notebooking topics.
  • Notebooking by Time Periods or Experiences: Perhaps you are unschooling or just have a more unstructured method of homeschooling. In these cases, your notebooking may be framed around a period of learning or particular experiences and may capture more or less information depending on the learning. Remember that, in lapbooking, mini-notebooks can be used for more fine-tuned collections that can be later included in larger notebooks!


Notebooking Homeschool 

Benefits of Notebooking

If you can fit notebooking into your homeschool, you are sure to see the advantages in your child’s learning. These are just some of the benefits of notebooking that you may not have considered:

  • Notebooks as Learning Tools: Similar to the one-pager, a notebook page contains a collection of learning tidbits about a topic, customized to the individual child. In this way, the simple process of completing the page is reinforcing learning and allowing the child to process the information in yet another way as your child makes new associations and personal connections.
  • Notebooks as Outlets for Creativity: If you are a human being, you understand that sometimes learning can be more effective simply if it is more fun. Creative children have a need to express themselves, and typical instruction may not always allow this. Through notebooking, children can be learning without even realizing they are learning while they enjoy the creative process of constructing each page.
  • Notebooks as Progress Monitoring: Because each page of a notebook reflects a child’s understanding of the material, you can use notebooking as a way to assess your child’s learning. For example, if your child is struggling to come up with contents for a particular page, or you notice a misconception in the text or images (or through discussing the contents of the page), you can provide additional instruction and examples to clarify.
  • Notebooks as Content for Portfolios: If your state homeschool laws require the collection of student samples or the creation of portfolios, you can use notebook pages to show the evidence of learning. You may be able to make copies or scan images or even take pictures of your notebook pages without ruining the overall notebook. Check with your state’s homeschooling laws to find out more!
  • Notebooks as Study Materials for Testing: Another state homeschool requirement may be standardized testing. If this is the case in your state, you may want to save notebooks for use in preparing for required homeschool testing. Reviewing your child’s notebooks may be a more engaging way to study than reading class notes over and over again.
  • Notebooks as Memories of Homeschooling: Perhaps the most important benefit of notebooking is that you will have a permanent record of the learning and fun that occurred in your homeschool. Even as an adult, your child may enjoy flipping through an old notebook and recollecting the activities that led to its creation. As the parent, you may find yourself doing just that, too!


Tips for Notebooking

The benefits are numerous, but, as with any method of teaching, there are certain things you will want to consider:

  • Resistance: Because notebooking is so open-ended, your child may be resistant at first. You may have to model the process by making your own notebook or provide prompts for entries to get your child started. For example, you may ask your child to “draw what you saw at the museum” or “write a short summary of the scientist’s life.” See if older siblings can join in the fun while giving your younger child support.
  • Materials/cost: If you are looking to trim your budget, you may have to brainstorm how to include notebooking without getting carried away with material costs. See if you can use things around the house you already have or reuse parts of the notebooks (like the binders) by placing old notebook pages in envelopes for storage. Look for free coloring pages you can simply print or download from the Internet.
  • Effort: Notebooking may require a bit more effort and persistence with a topic than your child may be used to giving. Rather than moving on, you may be having your child wallow in a topic, and your child must have patience and be willing to put in that effort. Be sure to support processes (like cutting and pasting) that may be more difficult for your young child and tailor the amount of effort you are expecting to your child’s interest level and developmental stage.
  • Time: If you are using a curriculum of any sort or trying to meet certain state guidelines, be sure that you have the time to include notebooking without throwing your schedule off and making your child feel behind. See which activities can be replaced by notebooking or limit the time that your child is involved in the notebooking process. Of course, if you have a more unstructured homeschool, time may be the greatest gift you can give!




Notebooking Resources

You may stumble across some challenges as you begin notebooking but remember that there are many homeschoolers who use notebooking successfully. Connect with other families through local support groups and check out the resources below:

12 Easy Ways to Use Notebooking in Your Homeschool | There’s No Place Like Home
“To put it very simply, notebooking is a form of journaling. Some would consider it to be a combination of journaling and scrapbooking. However you define it, though, it’s often the most effective and stress-free way of incorporating writing into your homeschool because it removes the dread of writing assignments and adds an element of creativity. It is so easy to let your kids have a say in how they’ll approach each notebooking page.” Enjoy these 12 ideas for notebooking that can work in your homeschool.

Everything You Need to Begin Notebooking E-Book Set | Cindy Rushton $
“We are so excited to be able to introduce our new Ebook Set! Yep! Our best-selling Notebooking! Yes! You CAN be a Binder Queen Too Ebook and our Make Your Own Notebook sets are all available in one complete set of E-books! It is everything that you need to get started notebooking today!

Everything You Need to Know about Homeschool Notebooking | Homeschool Mastery Academy
“If you are looking for a simple way for your children to explore their own thoughts, document their own questions, research, and document areas of learning, then look no further than homeschool notebooking. This journaling method is tried and true and has been used for hundreds of years.” Find out what notebooking is, reasons to use notebooking, the history of Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks, how to use notebooking, and more.

History Timeline Notebook: Light Purple Softcover Graph Paper Journal for Recording History Studies $
By Megan Van Sipe (Author)
Also known as a Book of Centuries, the History Timeline is to be used over many years as you read about people, places, and events of the past. Jot down the name of an inventor on the year they were born or the year they created their invention. Sketch famous artworks on the year they were painted. Over time you will see correlations, notice the events happening in historical figures’ lifetimes, and make connections in one moment in time across cultures. The pages are graph paper, with a horizontal timeline through the center. Depending on the era, the years have different spacing (becoming more frequent as it gets more modern). The beginning of the book has 10 pages for a “My Timeline” section to create a personal or family history. The beginning of each era has an open-ended “best of the era” two-page spread to list or doodle your favorite or most notable moments of the era.”

Homeschool Notebooking Journal $
By Homeschool Life Press (Author)
“Homeschool Notebooking is the art of showcasing knowledge on a topic covered through homeschool, and it usually has the creative aspect of combining written work with artwork in a journaling format to help a child understand what they are learning on a deeper level, as well as remember what they are learning longer than traditional educational methods alone. […] This notebook was created specifically for homeschoolers and features a homeschool-themed cover with doodles to inspire creativity. It features 150 pages with a place to draw and write on each page. […] Suited for Grades 3 and up or students who are ready to move beyond primary handwriting paper.”

The Homeschool Science Notebooking Journal: A Twenty Week Journal for the Young Scientist $
By Anna Travis (Author)
“This journal has twenty weeks for the young scientist to collect their favorite facts, diagrams, and data. Enjoy the freedom to explore a subject for as long as you wish and build strong journaling habits with the repeating layout. 5 pages per week. For Elementary to Middle School. This is an affordable student journal to use with your favorite science curriculum.”

Notebooking 101: The What and Why of Notebooking | The Unlikely Homeschool
Discover what notebooking is, why you should use notebooking, and lots of links to more information on notebooking.

The Notebooking Fairy
My mission at The Notebooking Fairy is to teach you how to notebook and to give you lots of free printables to notebook with. Every now and then I’ll sprinkle in some pixie dust to make things extra special.”



Notebooking Pages.com
“Eliminate busywork, boring texts, & burnout from your homeschool …with notebooking! Get started today with our FREE notebooking pages and Homeschool with Notebooking Quick Start Guide!”


Remember that your child can learn more while having fun, and notebooking can be a way to nurture that enjoyment of learning. Cherish the process and the results for years to come!

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